Could Common Core Fix the Scientific Ignorance of Americans?
Friday, June 13, 2014, 2:48 PM

As recently reported on Mere Comments, a new Gallup poll shows that many Americans still believe in God’s involvement in the creation of mankind.  The largest proportion of Americans, 42 percent, believe that God created human beings in their present form.  Additionally, 31 percent believe mankind evolved, but with God guiding the process.  Finally, 19 percent believe that man evolved without any involvement by God.  The Gallup survey results are available here:  Interestingly, despite many decades of “education” regarding evolutionary theory in government schools, the proportion of Americans subscribing to a creationist worldview that God made humans in their present form has never dropped below 40 percent since the question was first asked in 1982.

Non-theistic evolutionary theory has, of course, a myriad of problems.  There is the obvious irrationality that a pool of contaminated water struck by lightning is the source of all present life, after having replicated trillions and trillions of times successfully.  Fred Hoyle, the late English astronomer and atheist, famously observed regarding the likelihood of evolution of cellular life, “It would be easier for a tornado to go through a junkyard and create a 747.″  Moreover, if evolutionary theory were true, we would have expected to find by now millions of fossils of “transitional forms.”  For example, if birds evolved from reptiles or dinosaurs, as is often speculated, we could expect to find fossils showing various forms of stunted wings covered in scales.  But numerous evolutionary paleontologists have observed that no fossil has ever been found that can be identified as a transitional form.

What is to be done by this so-called scientific ignorance of so many Americans?  This is particularly important as the new Common Core educational standards have not issued their “science” standards, even though the Common Core standards will be first tested on the College Board Scholastic Aptitude Test in 2016.  (I suspect that issuance of new Common Core science standards may not be well received by the general public, and their release is awaiting a very slow news day.)  However, at the very least, we can reasonably anticipate that the new Common Core science standards will begin teaching evolutionary theory in the earliest school grades, as compared with the high school years now.  Alison Kopnik, writing recently in the Wall Street Journal, observed:

A new study in Psychological Science by Deborah Kelemen of Boston University and colleagues helps to explain why evolution is hard to grasp.  It also suggests that we should teach children the theory of natural selection while they are still in kindergarten instead of waiting, as we do now, until they are teenagers. . . Even babies understand that human actions are that preschoolers begin to apply this kind of design thinking more generally, an attitude she calls “promiscuous teleology.”  By elementary-school age, children start to invoke an ultimate God- like designer to explain the complexity of the world around them—even children brought up as atheists.  Kids aged 6 to 10 have developed their own coherent “folk biological” theories.  Dr. Kelemen and her colleagues thought that they might be able to get young children to understand the mechanism of natural selection before the alternative intentional-design theory had become too entrenched.  They gave 5- to 8-year-olds 10-page picture books that illustrated an example of natural selection. The “pilosas,” for example, are fictional mammals who eat insects.  Some of them had thick trunks, and some had thin ones.  A sudden change in the climate drove the insects into narrow underground tunnels.  The thin-trunked pilosas could still eat the insects, but the ones with thick trunks died.  So the next generation all had thin trunks. . . .  One picture book, of course, won’t solve all the problems of science education.  But these results do suggest that simple story books like these could be powerful intellectual tools.  The secret may be to reach children with the right theory before the wrong one is too firmly in place.

Emphasis added.

So we see that children intuitively perceive life as reflecting “intentional design.”  So the answer, according to the learned evolutionists, is to catch them very early and “train” them to understand things from a Darwinian perspective.  Of course, the example of the pilosas is fictional, which is, in and of itself, quite telling.  Moreover, the extrapolation from such a trivial example into the origin of all species and all biological complexity by unguided natural processes is dishonest, and particularly so, in a children’s book.  Personally, I am skeptical about the origin of all species through evolution.  In my thinking, it takes far more faith to believe in an ex nihilo creation that does not involve God than to believe in God’s direct involvement with Creation.  In fact, according to Professor Hoyle’s analysis, he estimated the probability of cellular life evolving to be one-in-1040,000.  He also observed, “Life as we know it, is, among other things, dependent on at least 2,000 different enzymes.  How could the blind forces of the primal sea manage to put together the correct chemical elements to build enzymes?”  An excellent question, I think.  In the Holy Gospels, the Lord Jesus Christ spoke of the reality of God’s direct involvement in Creation and the creation of mankind.  Well, He would know, wouldn’t He?

Mere Links 06.13.14
Friday, June 13, 2014, 10:00 AM

The Dying and Rising of Jesus
Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon, Preachers Institute

Whereas early Apostolic testimony, the letters of St. Paul, and the Synoptic sources normally speak of Christ’s Resurrection as the act of the Father, the event itself—the noun—is invariably the Resurrection of Christ.

9 Things You Should Know About Surrogacy
Joe Carter, The Gospel Coalition

Last week, the issue of surrogacy returned to the news when Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal vetoed legislation allowing for legal surrogacy births. Here are nine things you should know about surrogacy.

An honest assessment of the Southern Baptist Convention
Jacob Lupfer, Religion News Service

SBC leaders are pleased that the convention is having a robust debate about the doctrines of salvation and not, like many other Protestant bodies, about same-sex marriage and LGBT issues.

A Lethal Legacy: Hurricane Katrina and the Indignity of Euthanasia
Christopher White, Public Discourse

A new book tells the harrowing story of Memorial Medical Center, where some physicians took the lives of their patients during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Marriage Takes a Beating
Kenneth D. Whitehead, Crisis Magazine

Traditional marriage has been taking quite a beating ever since the U.S. Supreme Court, in its Windsor case handed down in June 2013, ruled that same-sex unions must be considered true marriages wherever they have been legally enacted as such, whether by legislative action, court action, or referendum.

Mere Links 06.12.14
Thursday, June 12, 2014, 10:00 AM

Religious Liberty and Economic Freedom: Intellectual and Practical Paradoxes
Samuel Gregg , Public Discourse

The role of economic liberty in contributing to human flourishing and the common good remains deeply underappreciated, even by those who are dedicated to religious liberty.

Three in Four in U.S. Still See the Bible as Word of God
Lydia Saad, Gallup

Twenty-eight percent of Americans believe the Bible is the actual word of God and that it should be taken literally. This is somewhat below the 38% to 40% seen in the late 1970s, and near the all-time low of 27% reached in 2001 and 2009.

The Problem of Constructive Protestantism
Dale M. Coulter, First Things

It has been almost eighty years since the publication of H. Richard Niebuhr’s The Kingdom of God in America and we are still talking about what Niebuhr called the problem of constructive Protestantism. This problem lurks behind the recent talk about the future of Protestantism unleashed by Peter Leithart’s initial volley.

The Spiritual Stakes in the Marriage Debate
Daniel Avila, Crisis Magazine

Judges across the country are busy rewriting state marriage laws, overturning democratically adopted measures defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and setting the table possibly for the United States Supreme Court to complete the coup by decreeing the redefinition of marriage in every state.

Mere Links 06.11.14
Wednesday, June 11, 2014, 10:00 AM

Media, Planned Parenthood Hype New “Abortion Romantic Comedy”
Katie Yoder,

Here’s a new oxymoron, even for the liberal media: abortion comedy. Opening this Friday, writer-director Gillian Robespierre’s “Obvious Child” tells the story of an aspiring young comedian, Donna Stern, who has an abortion after a one-night stand.

Cardinal Kasper, Communion, and Divorce—Again
Samuel Gregg, The Catholic World Report

The German prelate continues to make unconvincing arguments for his tolerate-but-not-accept propositions.

Christianity will rise as sceptics die out, geneticist claims
Sarah Knapton, The Telegraph

Growth of Christianity in Africa coupled with population decline in Europe will trigger new resurgence of the religion, UCL academic claims.

Will Catholic Comply?
Michael Gorman, First Things

The Bishops said they couldn’t go along with the HHS mandate. Will they in the end?

Mere Links 06.10.14
Tuesday, June 10, 2014, 10:00 AM

The Audacity of Pope: The ‘Francis Doctrine’ Puts the Vatican Back on the World Stage
David Gibson, OnFaith

Pope Francis has returned the Vatican to the global stage to a degree not seen since John Paul II helped end the Cold War.

Religious OCD: ‘I’m going to hell’
Elizabeth Landau, CNN

When she was 12, Jennifer Traig’s hands were red and raw from washing them so much. She’d start scrubbing a half an hour before dinner; when she was done, she’d hold her hands up like a surgeon until her family sat down to eat.

The Real Origins Of An Evangelical Hit Piece
Aaron Earls, The Federalist

Depending on what day it is, the Religious Right is viewed as being full of unintelligent buffoons incapable of grasping simple facts of science or they are shrewd political geniuses secretly leading our nation to become a full-fledged theocracy. Some days, they’re both.

Why St. Thomas Becket was Martyred
Randall B. Smith, Crisis Magazine

Many people who venerate the name of Thomas Becket (and/or love the movie with Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole that carries his name) likely do not understand the cause for which he was martyred, and if they did learn it, would likely be scandalized given our current presuppositions concerning the prerogatives of the omnipotent State as opposed to those of the relatively impotent Church.

Update on Dr. Meriam Ibrahim Yahia of Sudan
Monday, June 9, 2014, 3:50 PM

On these pages, I have recently written about the plight of Meriam Ibrahim Yahia, who was sentenced by a court in Sudan to death by hanging for “apostasy” and for 100 lashes for her “adultery.”  Unlike most definitions of adultery, the Sudanese court found her to be an adulteress for having married a Christian husband, who is also an American citizen.  In recent weeks, with her ankles shackled in chains, Meriam gave birth to a little girl, Maya.

Meriam’s ordeal began last year when members of her biological father’s family, people she hadn’t seen in many years, tracked her down, and accused her of adultery and apostasy.  Although she produced a marriage certificate to a Christian man, the court found her marriage invalid since her biological father was a Moslem.  However, Meriam’s father had abandoned her and her mother when she was a young child.  She had been raised as a Christian, and never practiced Islam.  However, under Sharia law, a daughter of a Moslem is a Moslem by birth and may not marry a Christian man, despite her upbringing or her personal convictions as an adult.  Further, under Sharia law, Moslem men are free to marry Christian women, though the opposite is not true for women.  Meriam Ibrahim, a successful businesswoman, is a physician.  It was reported that her biological father’s family only found her after hearing about her success.  By filing these complaints against her, her father’s family believes they can secure her assets, business, and children after she is hung.

During this nightmare, she was asked to deny her faith in the Lord Jesus Christ three times, and three times she has refused.  Now, Meriam, Martin, her toddler American son, and Maya, her newborn American daughter, lie in a bug and filth-infested Sudanese prison cell, a victim in the real Islamic war on women.  Section 38 of the Constitution of the Republic of Sudan guarantees “every person . . . the right to the freedom of religious creed and worship, and to declare his/her religion or creed and manifest the same . . . no person shall be coerced to adopt such faith, that he/she does not believe in.”  Even under Sudanese law, the national constitution trumps other enacted laws, such as the Criminal Code, under which Meriam was convicted.  Further, Sudan is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (“ICCPR”).  The ICCPR is a major treaty on human rights, and not merely a suggestion.  Article 18(1) of the ICCPR provides, “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.  This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice . . .”  Despite these laws, the Honorable Judge Abbas al Khalifa found a “legal basis” to convict Meriam for adultery and apostasy, based on her proclamation of her Christian faith.  Although pressured during her court hearings to recant Christianity, Meriam stood firm in her faith and has refused to do so.

As you can well imagine, Meriam’s American husband, Daniel, is distraught over the situation, and is not allowed custody of his children because under Sharia law, the children are considered to be Moslems.  Daniel, an American citizen, confers U.S. citizenship to his children at birth.  However, last week when Daniel again visited to the U.S. consulate in Khartoum to obtain that recognition, in a reprehensible display of obstruction and contrary to mandates of U.S. immigration law, American consular officials demanded that Daniel present the results of a DNA test.  (Of course, getting blood samples from the children sitting in prison pose their own practical problems to comply with the consulate’s edict.)   So now two American children are in a Sudanese prison with their “apostate” mother, and the American consulate is demanding that DNA test be conducted.  (Just begin to imagine the umbrage to an American policy demanding DNA tests for the children of all illegal aliens or persons applying for legal immigration status before any government benefits be provided?)  Please use your voice to demand that your Congressman and Senators call the Department of State to protest this outrageous requirement and issue the U.S. passports to these two U.S. citizen children.  The U.S. consulate should also immediately issue to Meriam an emergency travel document known as “Significant Public Benefit Parole” so that upon her release, she can immediately board a flight out of Sudan.  In addition to writing to our government officials to demand justice for Meriam and her family, please write to Meriam at the following address:

Dr. Meriam Yahia
Omdurman Prison for Women
P.O. Box 65
Omdurman, Republic of Sudan

In your letter or card, please assure Meriam of your prayers and support, congratulate her on Maya’s birth, and praise her for her courage and testimony for Christ.  I am certain that Meriam will be greatly encouraged to know that Christians everywhere are praying for her.  In Hebrews 13:3, we read, “Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated—since you yourselves are in the body also.”

Mere Links 06.09.14
Monday, June 9, 2014, 10:00 AM

In Sickness And In Health … When I Feel Like It
D.C. McAllister, The Federalist

Sadly, many people run from suffering and sickness because they want a “happy” life, not a joyful one. They do this not only with mental illness but physical illness as well.

9 Things You Should Know About Surrogacy
Joe Carter, The Gospel Coalition

Last week, the issue of surrogacy returned to the news when Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal vetoed legislation allowing for legal surrogacy births. Here are nine things you should know about surrogacy.

Should Christian Leaders Defend Islam?
William Kilpatrick, Crisis Magazine

Is there such a thing as bad religion? Or is religion by its very nature a good thing? Throughout most of history, most people wouldn’t have hesitated to label some religions as bad.

In U.S., 42% Believe Creationist View of Human Origins
Frank Newport, Gallup

More than four in 10 Americans continue to believe that God created humans in their present form 10,000 years ago, a view that has changed little over the past three decades. Half of Americans believe humans evolved, with the majority of these saying God guided the evolutionary process. However, the percentage who say God was not involved is rising.

Vespers of Pentecost
Sunday, June 8, 2014, 7:00 AM

Veni Creator Spiritus (Come, Holy Spirit)
Hildegarde of Bingen

1. Veni, creator Spiritus
mentes tuorum visita,
imple superna gratia,
quae tu creasti pectora.

2. Qui diceris Paraclitus,
altissimi donum Dei,
fons vivus, ignis, caritas
et spiritalis unctio.

3. Tu septiformis munere,
digitus paternae dexterae
tu rite promissum Patris
sermone ditans guttura.

4. Accende lumen sensibus,
infunde amorem cordibus,
infirma nostri corporis,
virtute firmans perpeti.

5. Hostem repellas longius
pacemque dones protinus;
ductore sic te praevio
vitemus omne noxium.

6. Per te sciamus da Patrem
noscamus atque Filium,
te utriusque Spiritum
credamus omni tempore.

7. Deo Patri sit gloria,
et Filio qui a mortuis
Surrexit, ac Paraclito,
in saeculorum saecula.

Chanted by the Anonymous 4 and rdcorded on The Origin Of Fire, Harmonia Mundi, 2005

Mere Links 06.06.14
Friday, June 6, 2014, 10:00 AM

How to Form a Real Conscience
Anthony Esolen, Crisis Magazine

It is also impossible to admit your need for a master if you won’t accept a truth unless it can be expressed so as to satisfy your intellect, here, now. What seems to be a paradox is easy to resolve once we consider the difference between nobility and what Max Scheler called ressentiment, in his remarkable book of that name.

Troubled Waters
Timothy George, First Things

For some years now, annual church statistics have shown that the SBC is losing members. Although there are still more than 46,000 congregations affiliated with the SBC, total membership has fallen by upwards of one million since 2005—from 16.6 million members in that year to 15.7 million members in 2013.

Atheists lose latest legal fight over ‘In God We Trust’
Lauren Markoe, Religion News Service

Atheists lost their case against the “In God We Trust” motto on the nation’s currency Wednesday (May 28). It’s a battle they have lost several times before, as court after court has affirmed that printing and engraving the country’s motto on its money does not violate the U.S. Constitution.

Southern Baptist membership declines for 7th year
Associated Press

The nation’s largest Protestant denomination saw membership decline for the seventh straight year in 2013, according to an annual report released Wednesday.

While You Were Sleeping
Friday, June 6, 2014, 8:10 AM

In recent days, my American readers have been focused on the abysmal care to our military veterans at a number of government hospitals, the mystery surrounding the prisoner swap with the Taliban and Sgt. Bergdahl, and the deepening concerns about the Mr. Obama’s foreign policy setbacks in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.  But mostly unnoticed was a small item in which the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) reversed a long-standing ban on gender reassignment surgery paid for by Medicare.  (Yes, really!)  Gender reassignment surgery is commonly referred to as a sex change operation.  Thus, taxpayer-paid sex change surgeries are now available for the elderly and disabled.

HHS has determined that it is “no longer reasonable” to expect older and disabled Americans to pay for their own sex change operations.  Instead, HHS now recognizes the surgery as “medically necessary” and “effective” treatment for people who cannot deal effectively with their own biological gender.  Mr./Ms. Denee Mallon, a 74-year-old Army veteran from Albuquerque, New Mexico, was the driving force behind the change in HHS policy, after he/she sued HHS for this special benefit.  In an emailed statement reported by ABC News, Mallon wrote:

Sometimes I am asked aren’t I too old to have surgery.  My answer is how old is too old?  When     people ask if I am too old, it feels like they are implying that it’s a “waste of money” to operate     at my age.  But I could have an active life ahead of me for another 20 years.  And I want to spend     those years in congruence and not distress.

(I wonder why he/she didn’t simply go to the Veterans Administration for the sex change operation?  After all, taxpayers we have been paying for sex change operations for military traitors and illegal immigrants throughout the Obama years.)  Each gender reassignment surgery can cost $50,000 or more.  Fortunately, Medicare has plenty of money to take care of the 10,000 seniors now retiring each day.  Gary Gates, a demographer with The Williams Institute, a think tank on LGBT issues at the University of California at Los Angeles, estimates that people who self-identify as “transgender” make up 0.3 percent of the U.S. adult population.  With over 49 million Americans now enrolled in Medicare, if Mr. Gates’ numbers are somewhat accurate, I would think that sex change operations for senior citizens and the disabled should not amount to more than 150,000 surgeries.  Thus, the new HHS policy clearly recognizes that it is a taxpayer responsibility to cover an elective body modification that reduces the mental, psychological, and physical risk arising from those suffering from gender confusion and dysphoria.

Technically, the HHS decision does not yet apply to Medicaid, which provides health coverage for individuals and families with low-incomes.  Although some states do not pay for sex change surgeries and the cost of sex hormones that transgendered people commonly take during their “transition,” other states evaluate such claims on a case-by-case basis.  However, as private health insurance companies and Medicaid programs often follow the federal government on what is considered medically necessary, this decision is likely to lead to sex change surgeries as a routinely covered insurance benefit.  After the HHS decision, Mallon said in a statement, “This decision means so much to me and to many other transgender people.  I am relieved to know that my doctor and I can now address my medical needs, just as other patients and doctors do.”  I am reminded of Mr. Obama’s response to a question at a town-hall meeting about one’s 100-year-old grandmother who received a pacemaker.  This was during the run-up to passage of Obamacare.  The questioner pointed out to Mr. Obama that her grandmother had badly needed a pacemaker, but had been turned down by a doctor because of her age.  A second doctor, noting the patient’s alertness, zest for life, and generally youthful “spirit,” inserted the pacemaker despite her advanced age.  Her symptoms, having been resolved, Grandma was doing well five years later.  The question for Mr. Obama was, “Under the Obama healthcare system, will an elderly person’s general state of health, and her “spirit,” be taken into account when making medical decisions – or will these decisions be made according to age only?”  Mr. Obama’s famous answer was clear: “it is really not feasible to take ‘spirit’ into account.  We are going to make medical decisions based on objective evidence, and not subjective impressions.  . . . Maybe you’re better off not having the surgery, but taking a pill.”  I guess he has now “evolved” on this as well.  I am glad that Mr./Ms. Mallon won’t have to just take a pill to deal with his dysphoria, or that he won’t have to pay for it either as those expenses are now foisted on taxpayers.  But as Tony Perkins from the Family Research Council observed, “While President Obama is busy financing senior sex changes, wounded veterans are dying for lack of medical care.”

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